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Camera Tricks, Part One

CreativeCOW presents Camera Tricks, Part One --  Tutorial


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If you are an avid moviegoer, you\'ve probably noticed that the psychology of the movie is not only in the script and the music, but the quality of the picture as well. In simplest terms, a picture slightly reddish and/or yellowish tends to give the viewer a warm, friendly, emotional feeling and a picture with a slight bluish cast tends to give the viewer a cold, heartless, emotionless feeling. In many drama type films, the use of warm footage with cold footage helps the viewer distinguish between the hero and the villain. In this article, Jim Allen explains color temperature and how to achieve this quality in your video.



If you are an avid moviegoer, you've probably noticed that the psychology of the movie is not only in the script and the music, but the quality of the picture as well. In simplest terms, a picture slightly reddish and/or yellowish tends to give the viewer a warm, friendly, emotional feeling and a picture with a slight bluish cast tends to give the viewer a cold, heartless, emotionless feeling. In many drama type films, the use of warm footage with cold footage helps the viewer distinguish between the hero and the villain. In this article, Jim Allen explains color temperature and how to achieve this quality in your video.



To begin to understand the techniques, you need to know a bit about color temperatures. Basically, all film and video equipment are made to operate in 2 types of color environments or temperatures. The light source you choose determines the color temperature. The first is incandescent lights and tungsten lights which are rated for 3000 degrees Kelvin to about 3400 degrees Kelvin. These lights are the lights typically found indoors. Secondly, in the outdoors we generally choose the sunshine for our light source and it typically is rated at around 5000+ degrees Kelvin on a sunny day to over 9000 degrees Kelvin on an overcast day. This may help to explain why some still photographs shot indoors without a flash look so yellowish. The film you are using is probably outdoor film (rated at 5500 degrees Kelvin) but shot using an incandescent light source yielding 3000 degree Kelvin light. The color temperatures are too far apart for the image to appear “correct”. I've written several other articles about color temperature in past issues. You may want to review them or contact a filter or lighting gel manufacture for more information.

Today, we have many ways of warming and cooling the image in both film and video. Here are a few techniques that may be helpful depending on your budget and shooting style. To simplify matters we'll concentrate on video techniques, although some of these will work equally well in film if you understand the film’s rated color temperature.


TO WARM A PICTURE:

The easiest way to warm a picture is to simply add some degree of a Coral filter, a degree of an 85 filter, or any number of similar filters like LL-D’s, or 812’s to your lens and shoot. Filters are made in varying degrees depending on the intensity of color you desire.

For instance, Corals are made in various intensities of the Coral color with the number 4 Coral being similar to an 85-correction filter. 85 filters are made in 1/4, 1/2 and full depending on the intensity. If you'd like to have a very, very warm picture then you might choose a full 85 or a #4 Coral. If you'd like a slightly warm picture then you might choose a #1 or #2 Coral or a 1/4 or 1/2 -85 filter. Filters are a fine way of adjusting color but they are costly and I wouldn't suggest you make a large purchase until you experiment.

Following are several less expensive ways:

  1. Add various shades of color temperature orange (CTO) gel to your lights.

  2. Use a CTO gel as a filter. Cut a piece to the size of your lens and shoot through it. You must be very careful with this one because lighting gel isn't optically clear and will distort your image slightly. But it is a cheap way of achieving the goal and the distortion may enhance your effect. For this to be affective, you must white balance before you add the filter. If you white balance after you add the filter then your camera will compensate for the filter and the image will no longer look warm.

  3. Paint a white card a light shade of blue and white balance. Your camera will compensate for the blue and make your overall picture yellowish. The blue you choose should be similar in hue to a CTB gel. (Since this article was written several companies have developed white balance cards with a light blue tint that will do the same)

  4. Don Warren of Jackson, Mississippi who is a talented DP friend of mine suggested covering a white card with a 1/8, or 1/4 CTB gel and white balance.

  5. Put your lights on a dimmer and dim them down to less than 80%. Incandescent and tungsten lights turn yellow when they are dimmed.

  6. Many non-linear editors have color correction functions built in or as add-on software. Check with your editor before you decide to do this one. This process may take a great deal of time to do.


TO COOL A PICTURE

Basically, you want to do the reverse of warming a picture. You can add a degree of an 80 filter, which is a blue correction filter. Again, this is a great way to achieve the effect but it can be costly.

  1. Add various shades of color temperature blue (CTB) gel to your lights.

  2. Use a CTB gel as a filter. Cut a piece to the size of your lens and shoot through it. You must be very careful with this one because lighting gel isn't optically clear and will distort your image slightly. But it is a cheap way of achieving the goal and the distortion may enhance your effect. For this to be affective, you must white balance before you add the filter. If you white balance after you add the filter then your camera will compensate for the filter and the image will no longer look cool.

  3. Paint a white card a light shade of yellow and white balance. Your camera will compensate for the yellow and make your overall picture bluish. The yellow you choose should be similar in hue to a CTO gel.

  4. Again, Don Warren suggested covering a white card with a 1/8, or 1/4 CTO gel and white balance.

  5. Many non-linear editors have color correction functions built in or as add-on software. Check with your editor before you decide to do this one. Sometimes this process takes a great deal of time to do.


WORKING WITH FLUORSCENTS

In our world, there are two types of fluorescent lights. Color-corrected fluorescent and everything else. Several professional film and video lighting companies make excellent fluorescent light products, color corrected to give you either a 3200 degree Kelvin light or a 5000 degree Kelvin light. If you are lucky enough to work with these then do so and use the procedures I explained above.

Many times though, you'll find yourself in an office building lit by hundreds of fluorescent lights. These lights and the ones found in many homes are not color-corrected for film and video and will usually yield a poor image on your final product. Many times the image will either be greenish or colorless. I dislike shooting under fluorescent lights because it tends to make people look as if they are dead. Their skin is pasty and drab. If you must use them, there is a way to correct for this and bring back some of the color. As normal you will need to white balance your video camera then add a slight amount of a warming color to the lens. I'm partial to using an 812 filter to enhance skin color. Again, filters can be a bit pricey; another way to do this would be to use a 1/4 CTO gel as a filter. Remember that you have to choose a clean, new piece of the gel and you'll probably distort the image slightly. This is one area where a color monitor would come in handy.

These tricks are easy and effective, if you are careful. Some of them are debatable and some downright cheap. My mantra has always been to do whatever necessary to get the desired effect without sacrificing the image. With these ideas and the ones you'll discover you should be able to inexpensively do the work that needs to be done. In part 2 , we'll look at diffusion and a few other nifty effects.







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